On Black Friday, you can “Opt Outside” for free in Alaska State Parks

A view of Chugach State Park from Mt. Eklutna. (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

A growing number of Americans are ditching crowded stores on Black Friday and hitting the trails instead. The “Opt Outside” campaign was launched by an outdoor gear company two years ago and has caught on at state and national parks across the country, like in Alaska, where state park fees are waived on Black Friday.

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AKPM: “I’m walking through mostly birch forest. It snowed a couple of days ago, so there’s some fresh snow on the ground and on the trees.”

It’s wild, it’s wintry and for Black Friday, the five-dollar parking fee is waived.

In 2015 the outdoor gear company REI shut its doors for the day on Black Friday and unveiled the #OptOutside campaign.

Carrie Harris stopped into the REI here in Anchorage the day before Thanksgiving.

“Right now I am shopping for a hat for myself,” Harris explained.

Harris said she’s glad REI is closed on Black Friday. After a late breakfast that she said will probably include some turkey, Harris and her family plan to steer clear of the shops the day after Thanksgiving.

“My in-laws are in town,” Harris said, “And with our three little boys we’re going to get out and do some sledding and try to stay away from downtown [and] all of civilization here in Anchorage, and just spend time together as a family outside.”

They can do that at any state park in Alaska for free on Black Friday. Ethan Tyler is the director of State Parks and Recreation.

“We’re certainly encouraging people to use the hashtag Opt Outside and as part of that we are waiving all of our parking fees,” Tyler said.

More than a dozen other state parks are doing the same and the National Park Service is also on board. Sure, you might miss out on some bargains, but the pay-off can be huge.

AKPM: “I just walked around this corner and I’m now in this big bowl surrounded by mountains on three sides and right now I see two moose and they’ve stopped moving right now– I think they see me or at least they hear me. Really, just spectacular.”

Two moose walk along the side of Mt. Eklutna in Chugach State Park. (Emily Russell/Alaska Public Media)

Emily Russell is the voice of Alaska morning news as Alaska Public Media’s Morning News Host and Producer.

Originally from the Adirondacks in upstate New York, Emily moved to Alaska in 2012. She skied her way through three winters in Fairbanks, earning her Master’s degree in Northern Studies from UAF.

Emily’s career in radio started in Nome in 2015, reporting for KNOM on everything from subsistence whale harvests to housing shortages in Native villages. She then worked for KCAW in Sitka, finally seeing what all the fuss with Southeast, Alaska was all about.

Back on the road system, Emily is looking forward to driving her Subaru around the region to hike, hunt, fish and pick as many berries as possible. When she’s not talking into the mic in the morning, Emily can be found reporting from the peaks above Anchorage to the rivers around Southcentral.

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